Activity Time: Chili Cook Off at Church

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Winter time and colder weather remind us Texans of a favorite comfort food: chili. So when I heard about the First Annual Chili Cook Off held by Church, I was all over it. Church, which I have written about before on this blog, is a cute restaurant in the Fenway area that has religiously-themed dishes and drinks. Next to the restaurant is a music/event hall, which is where the cook off went down.

Starting at 1:00 pm, I was unsure exactly what to expect in the portions of the chili that guests were going to be trying, as the posters for the event left a lot to the imagination. However, once inside, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of chili each guest was given – as it was at least a scoop from each station. On top of that, almost every contestant (to which there were around six or seven official competitors) jazzed up the dish with tortilla chips, sour cream, cheese and in one case, pig ear.

Overall, I enjoyed getting a chance to sample some fantastic chili dishes. I love Chowder Fest in the summer, so why wouldn’t I have liked a Chili Cook Off? The downside was that the event was incredibly crowded. According to the Boston Globe, there were around 250 people that attended. It doesn’t seem like a crazy number, except that the entire event was held in a small space. Once the crowd piled in, it was hard to move from station to station – and it got hot fast (especially after eating several bowls of chili).

While I haven’t been able to find out who won the actual “People’s Choice Award,” I can give you my thoughts on the dishes:

Sweet Caroline’s – traditional style of chili with big chunks of hamburger and beans, loaded with chives, sour cream, small tortilla chips and cheese. I voted for this one because it had a good level of flavor, was a thicker chili and provided a good amount of ingredients.

Fenway Park – chocolate/cocoa powder base sauce with meat and beans, loaded with an avocado, sour cream, tortilla, etc. I didn’t know Fenway had chili but I thought it was great! I’ll absolutely order this when it’s on the colder side at Red Sox games.

Church – chili three ways: mole chili, turkey chili and traditional. My biggest hang up was the mole, as it was way too sweet and didn’t have any spice on it. I tried it first, so I don’t think I gave the other chili’s a fair shot.

Sweet Cheeks – non-traditional turkey chili with a white base and some sort of cilantro/pesto type sauce on top. I really enjoyed this one, as it had big chunks of turkey and lots of flavor. Also, I got to meet Top Chef’s Tiffani Faison, who checked the chili’s flavors before scooping!

Thorntons – traditional chili with large beans and shredded beef. This was my least favorite of all the chilies I tried. There wasn’t a lot of flavor and the base was really watery. I will be going to this restaurant for brunch (which apparently they have everyday)!

Jerry Remy’s – traditional chili with lots of meat and no beans. We Southerners talk a big game about “no beans” being the right kind of chili but honestly, it had spice and not a lot of flavor.

Tasty Burger/Citizens – traditional chili with a modern twist that was decorated with pig ear and a fancy cheese. It was a good effort but I personally didn’t enjoy this one as much.

As I said, I enjoyed the concept of the event and had it not been so crowded, I would have absolutely stayed longer. However, I felt rushed to try the food and get out. I would say that the highlight of the day for me was meeting Tiffani – though to spend time on a Saturday eating chili is absolutely heaven.

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